There have been some marvellous and inspiring posts on the Beyond Chocolate Community recently from new members pledging to give up dieting and others asking for support as they work through The Psychology of Weight Loss in their own way.
One thing that’s come up a lot is the wonderful Beyond Chocolate Principle, Eat What You Want, and I thought it might be a good idea to discuss this principle in a bit more detail.
For those who have detached themselves from the mooring posts of restrictive diets and are embarking on the Beyond Chocolate cruise liner, this principle can strike two ways; it’s either a glorious invitation to eat all the foods that the diets forbade, or, it’s a terrifying peek into an abyss filled with fattening foods. Or both, of course.
Either way, it does seem to be the principle of choice for many newbie Beyond Chocolaters who start experimenting with a new approach to weight loss. I would say two very different things about this. Either: Woohoo! Go for it and Enjoy! Or: You might want to experiment with a couple of the other 9 principles first?’
Are you more like Woman A or Woman B below? Understanding how you respond to being told you can eat what you want after years of dieting will help you decide how to go about it…(Of course you may be a mixture of the two, but let’s keep it simple for now and work with these two extremes.)
Woman A has been dieting for many years; she knows the calories, SYNS and ProPoints in every bit of food. She can tell you exactly how many pounds (or grams if she’s more up to date than me) a hour of any type of exercise will burn. She is, in short, a diet expert. And she now knows that none of them work. Nope, not one. She’s stuck with them all through fatter and thinner and fatter again and now she’s ready to move away from the diets and try a new approach to weight loss.
For her, Beyond Chocolate is a glorious liberation from all the restriction she’s endured for so many years. For her, Eat What You Want means just that; nothing is forbidden any more and she glories in the variety and opportunities this brings her. To Woman A, Eat What You Want means freedom and experimentation and rediscovery – now she can taste all those previously forbidden foods. It may be that she doesn’t actually like some of them while others are an explosive taste-sensation she is really glad she can now enjoy.
For Woman A, the liberation is heady but she will come to a point where the frenzied consumption of previously forbidden foods loses its appeal and she begins to wonder whether she’s ‘doing it right’ – after all, this programme is about weight-loss, not the weight-gain that can accompany an unrestricted plunge into Eat What You Want. This principle is often mistaken for a Licence To Binge (which isn’t surprising after years of being told what NOT to eat) but there’s more to this than meets the eye. We misinterpret Eat What you Want as “Eat What You Want Whenever You Fancy And Carry On Eating Mindlessly Until You’re Stuffed”.
Woman B has also been dieting for many years. She too is an expert in all the different diets and she too knows they don’t work. She has also found her way The Psychology of Weight Loss with relief, but for her, the lack of hard and fast rules is proving tricky. She loves the sound of eating what she wants rather than following a plan but she’s terrified that this will mean she will stuff herself with cakes and chocolate and biscuits and crisps and pastries and and and, until (like Bridget Jones) her bottom is roughly the size of Brazil. This is a frightening thought, she doesn’t really trust herself and she would much rather someone told her what she could and couldn’t eat to start her off on this new approach. And so she is both drawn to and repelled by this principle and she worries that it will just make things worse. There are lots of foods that she would LOVE to try now but she’s afraid that if she gives in to them, she will just eat and eat and eat and never stop. For Woman B, the fear of weight-gain under an unrestricted regime is one that will put her off experimenting with this. That’s fine, she can also leave it for a while and then come back to it when she’s ready.
I was very much Woman A when I discovered Beyond Chocolate. I threw myself into the freedom this Principle offers but eventually worked out that it wasn’t helpful to do it like that. So I left it for a while and then came back to it when I had the other principles firmly under my belt. And I would give the same advice to both women A and B. It is necessary to experiment with this Principle at some point when working with the Psychology of Weight Loss, but not necessarily to start off with. This isn’t a diet. if it’s not working for you, don’t do it just yet.
Give yourself an opportunity to experiment with all the other tools in the box. Learn about your hunger and satisfaction level. Understand how to eat mindfully, connect with your body and start to Move! Do all of this with support and building trust in yourself. At some point, you will realise that Eat What You Want actually means:
‘Look at all the food choices available to you given your personal preferences, health and religious constraints. Wait until you are hungry and choose what you want to eat from amongst them all without paying any attention to calories, fat, Syns and Points and Enjoy them On A Plate, Sitting Down and Focusing then Stop When You Are Satisfied. ”
Until we reach that point, it would be my suggestion to work with the other 9 principles that make up the Beyond Chocolate approach. Whilst, almost in the background to gently let ourselves truly believe that we have total food rights and that no food is now forbidden. In short, don’t engage fully with this principle until you are ready for it – for some of us that will be right away, others may need to work gently towards it instead. One step at a time, with support.
Both paths are equally valid and both will bring the wonderful results that Beyond Chocolate alone offers ex-dieters.